I didn’t design any of my kids. I’m not a genetic engineer. But I do take a lot of credit for making them. After all, I am a designer and maker, and I did good work on each of them.
Here’s the birth story about the kid I had just last week. Looking back now, I definitely laugh about the things I said and thought during the height of labor and delivery. It’s long, so I hope you’re ready to read.
. . . . .
My obstetrician was going out of town for several days the week before my due date. He asked if I was interested in getting the birth started or if I preferred to wait and let it happen naturally. I really thought I’d go into labor before getting anywhere near my due date, since my previous baby showed up 10 days early. There were a few deciding factors, like our insurance running out at the end of the month since I got laid off in June, my worry over having a huge baby and all the damage that would do to me, my mom was visiting and would be leaving a few days after my due date, or the anxiety over just not knowing when or where I’d be when labor would start. In the end we felt like scheduling an induction was the right thing to do.
My last appointment was 8 days before my due date. We showed up and found my OB dressed in a paisley Western shirt, jeans, and cowboy boots. He squeezed me in for a visit right before he left to go horseback riding off the grid in Wyoming. He wouldn’t be back until the following Wednesday, so he told me he’d plan to induce me on Thursday the 16th. I’m honestly still a little weirded out that modern medicine allows us to schedule giving birth. It’s both convenient and strange.
I was fully expecting that with my ridiculous luck, I’d go into labor and my doctor wouldn’t be around or even reachable while he was away. Wednesday rolled around, and I still didn’t know what was going to happen the following day or even when I was supposed to go in. Around 3:30pm I got a phone call from the Labor and Delivery office at the hospital, letting me know they were expecting me at 2pm the following day. Good to know.
That night I was struggling with a lot of worry and anxiety over the pain and struggle that was inevitably waiting for me the following day. It had been keeping me from sleeping well all week and I was not in a good place mentally. My incredible doula friend Annalaura came over to instill her wisdom and confidence into my head and heart. Bob gave me a blessing, where he rebuked the doubts and fears that were pressing on my mind and then also said some very comforting words to help me recognize my capability to do this successfully. I then slept uninterrupted for 6-7 hours, which was more rest than I’d gotten any night for the previous 2 weeks.
I woke up Thursday morning feeling peaceful and happy. We had cranberry walnut sourdough French toast for breakfast. Lindsi gave me a pedicure. Bob ran some last minute errands. We had lunch. And then we drove to the hospital. It was sunny, I had fixed my hair, and was wearing my favorite maternity/nursing dress. Lindsi came with us to take birth photos.
We checked in just after 2pm, laughing and joking in the waiting room and also with the receptionist. We went to the delivery room and I got changed into a hospital gown. The nurse came in, we filled out paperwork, talked about some procedures, and put an IV in my arm. We started the pitocin drip and I relaxed.
I consulted with the anesthesiologist (who, by the way, is legitimately named William Shakespeare–his dad was an English professor, and he himself is a fantastic doctor). He sat and patiently talked with me for a good 15-20 minutes. I voiced all of my concerns and explained that I would probably want an epidural to be able to better tolerate the contractions as I neared delivery time, but I still wanted to be able to feel enough pressure so I’d know when/how/where to push. To my relief he told me he could do that for me. It’s what he called the “epidural light,” where I’d still be able to move my legs and feet, but not be able to stand on my own. It would just take the edge off the pain.
I labored for about 6 hours unmedicated. I moved around the room, switching positions and relying on Bob to coach me through the contractions as they got more severe. And between contractions we laughed and talked and made a list of potential baby names.
We went from the minimum dosage of pitocin, to no pitocin, monitoring my contractions to see if my body would take over and keep contracting. But the contractions slowed down, so back on pitocin I went.
Around 9pm my OB showed up. I was dilated to 6 cm and it was time to break my water and really get things moving. I called for the anesthesiologist and got an epidural started, and as it began kicking in my OB checked me one more time, breaking my water just from the pressure he applied to check my dilation. He didn’t even have to use the hook that the nurse had already opened and prepped.
“It’ll probably take 2-3 hours now, so I expect you’ll have the baby around midnight,” my doctor said. He reassured me that he’d be around the hospital and he’d see me again shortly and he left the room until he was needed again. If he’d known just how short that wait was going to be, he probably wouldn’t have left the room.
Around 9:30pm the labor got really intense. I stopped being able to open my eyes because the discomfort and pain had become so strong. That epidural helped to take the edge off the pain, but it didn’t eliminate it much at all—just what I’d asked for. I was grateful for the little bit it did for me though. I was struggling to breathe calmly through the contractions, so Bob doubled his coaching efforts, helping me to breathe deeply and focus on making low sounds as I exhaled.
I yelled (I didn’t mean to yell, everything that came out of my mouth at this point was yelling) at the nurse that I needed to be checked again.
She checked me. 7cm. I had dilated one centimeter in about 20 minutes.
Everything was getting more uncomfortable, more painful, and more intense. I had another contraction and sort of felt the urge to push. I yelled that at the room in general.
“Don’t push yet, because you’re not dilated enough. It’ll just wear you out, so try to resist.”
The pain and discomfort were overwhelming. I couldn’t sit still. I was shaking uncontrollably. My teeth were chattering. I still couldn’t open my eyes. I didn’t even realize that I had been whimpering and loudly groaning nonstop for the last several minutes.
Another contraction hit, and this time I grabbed Bob and yelled, “I FEEL LIKE I REALLY NEED TO PUSH.” The nurse had stepped out of the room for all of one second, so we grabbed her and pulled her back in to check me again.
“Okay, you’re at 10 cm!” And everyone suddenly got frantically busy. About 3 other nurses showed up. Someone sent for my OB. Everyone was bustling about preparing I-don’t-even-know-what because my eyes were still closed. Opening them was just too much.
Another contraction. “CAN I PUSH YET!?!”
The answer was no. Apparently I was dilated but the baby was still descending and had a little bit further to go before I could safely push him out.
I kept trying to keep my breathing steady and make low sounds as I exhaled. In my head I was doing a great job. But then I heard myself and realized I was growling angrily and breathing shallowly. I couldn’t control it.
My OB arrived. Finally. It felt like it took hours for him to get there. It was actually only a few minutes. Bob asked him to start a perineal massage. He obliged. I was grateful, because I couldn’t think clearly enough to ask.
After another contraction like that, he told me it was time to push. To my surprise I was yelling nonstop from the pain and pressure and I hadn’t even realized it until I wondered what that sound was when I heard him talking.
I couldn’t stop yelling, but I tried pushing anyway. It didn’t work.
“You’re going to need to stop yelling, bear down, and push,” my doctor told me frankly.
“OKAY I’LL TRY,” I managed to yell without swearing at him.
I wasn’t sure if I was going to live through this. I felt like my entire vaginal area was going to rip apart, while also feeling like I was going to pass out from the agonizing pain, and I started to see black spots a because I couldn’t get my breathing under control.
“I CAN’T DO THIS,” I told Bob. He told me I could do it and that I had to try. I was convinced that this was it for me. I was going to die right there because it was impossible to get that baby out of me.
Then another contraction hit and I suddenly had to push. It was this overwhelming instinct that I absolutely had to do. Everyone was telling me to push, including my stupid uterus.
So I took as deep of a breath as I could, held it in, and focused every bit of my mind and all of my muscles toward where I felt that pain and pressure. I pushed until I thought I’d black out, exhaled/screamed, inhaled as deeply as I could, and did it again and again. My doctor kept saying something reassuring each time I pushed through that single contraction.
I felt the baby’s head slide through.
“Okay,” my doctor said. “Do that again on the next contraction to get his shoulders out.”
I was still yelling nonstop on every exhale. “DON’T EVER GET ME PREGNANT AGAIN,” I told Bob angrily.
The next contraction started and I inhaled as deeply as I could, held my breath, and focused everything on that same area as before, and gave it everything I had.
I felt his shoulders slowly slide out, and the rest of him followed effortlessly.
I don’t remember what anyone said to me for the next few minutes. All I knew is that I could finally open my eyes again. I looked down and there he was: a simultaneously huge and tiny baby boy, covered in vernix and looking as angry as I’d felt 30 seconds before.
Everything changed. My throat was dry and my voice was very hoarse from nonstop screaming for the last 20-30 minutes, but I heard myself saying, “Hello little guy! You’re here!” I was smiling and felt an overwhelming sense of joy and relief.
They quickly cleared his mouth and nose with a bulb syringe, he made a couple of little cries, and they placed him on my chest. He immediately stopped crying and relaxed as soon as he felt my skin and heard my voice.
The doctor and nurses kept bustling about cleaning up both me and the room. I was oblivious to it all, completely entranced by this new tiny person: his long fingers and toes, his chubby cheeks, his light-colored hair, the shape of his eyes… He already looks more like me than either of my other two boys do. Finally.
I looked at Bob and, with a huge smile, blearily said, “These hormones are great.”
I felt so good, full of endorphins and oxytocin. I couldn’t stop admiring this new tiny human. He was just so cute and interesting to look at. He had this new face and personality I wanted to get to know.
. . . . .
We finally made it down to the recovery room around 1am.
“There’s one name that I can’t stop thinking about,” Bob said to me as we settled in for the night. We had started making a short list of names while I was in labor. Since we’ve made our other boys’ middle names after my brothers, we planned on this one following suit. We had agreed that his middle name was Cameron shortly after he was born. In fact, some of his facial features even remind us of my brother, Cameron. It was perfect.
I suspected which name Bob had in mind. “I have 2 or 3 that are stuck in my head,” I responded, just in case I didn’t like the combination when I heard it out loud.
Bob asked me which ones mine were. “August, Elliot, and Wesley. Which one is yours?”
“August. He could go by Auggie for short.”
We both sat quietly for a moment to let it sink in.
“Is that it, then?” I asked. “August Cameron?”
It’s not a name I would have considered until I saw him. But it feels familiar. It’s like I already knew his name and I just had to be reminded. The other special thing about his first name is that it’s already a family name. My great-grandmother was named Augusta.
So welcome to the world, August Cameron.
I already can’t imagine our family without you in it.